Denis Jackson 1936-2020

Denis Jackson discovered the works of Theodor Storm shortly before he was due to retire. At a reading of Storm’s most famous novella Der Schimmelreiter he felt an affinity and a pull that sent him to Storm’s hometown of Husum the very next day. The world he discovered there led to his decision to spend his retirement bringing Storm’s work to the English-speaking audience.

His translation of Der Schimmelreiter (The Dykemaster) appeared in 1996. He published 5 further selections of Storm’s novellas, and an e-book of Storm fairy tales. Paul The Puppeteer and other Stories won the Oxford-Weidenfeld prize for translation in 2005. He also created and maintained the website theodorstorm.co.uk (a veritable encylopedia of all things Storm related), which I very much hope will stay online.

As Theodor Storm is a beloved author of mine, I have read all of Jackson’s translations and always hoped for more. Alas it is not to be for Denis Jackson is no longer with us, having died recently at the age of 84.

A treasure trove of fine literature

My memories of Denis Jackson are not confined to his translations. In 2015, he kindly agreed to a Meet The Translator interview. Now I am always delighted by the generosity of the translators I interview on the blog, but when I received Jackson’s responses, I was honestly overwhelmed. “Edit them as you will,” he wrote. “Not a chance,” I thought. His responses, as precise and charming as his translations, were pure gold and I wasn’t prepared to lose a word. So I published them as an interview in three parts. (1, 2, 3)

So generous was he, that he gifted a stunning photograph of the North Sea and an unpublished translation of a Storm lyric poem to demonstrate the indivisibility of the Friesian landscape and Storm’s work. (cf afore-mentioned interview part 3). Those words nudged me to visit Husum for myself in 2017, the year of Storm’s bicentennial. I am very thankful for that, and, of course, for his translations, from which I am never to be parted.

Rest in peace, Denis Jackson, knowing your literary contribution is not only sublime but also well loved.